USA Pro Challenge: Rohan Dennis wins Breck Time Trial |

USA Pro Challenge: Rohan Dennis wins Breck Time Trial

Dennis Rohan - 1st place
Jenise Jensen / Special to the Daily |

BRECKENRIDGE — The Breckenridge Time Trial lived up to it’s billing, and so did Rohan Dennis.

It took the BMC Racing pro just 18 minutes and 11 seconds to demolish doubts about his standing as the fastest and grittiest competitor in the 2015 USA Pro Challenge.

After 107 riders had tortured their legs and lungs on the 8.5-mile Moonstone course, the 25-year-old Australian took the final start to defend his yellow jersey and stake a long-awaited claim as a premier World Tour cyclist.

He barreled across the Main Street finish line 27 seconds ahead of second-place winner Rob Britton of Team SmartStop, obliterating an otherwise tight TT field.

His teammate, Stage 2 winner Brent Bookwalter, came in third to keep the intimidating BMC squad solidly on top of the overall team standings.

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The podium picture was wildly unpredictable before Dennis took his run. For most of the afternoon, Jack Bobridge with Team Budget Forklifts was the only rider to beat the 19-minute mark, sitting at top position with a time of 18:59 until time trial specialist Taylor Phinney notched a blazing finish of 18:50.

His 4-kilometer descent from Moonstone to Main Street was the fastest of the day at 4 minutes flat, barely beating hometown hero Taylor Shelden’s 4:02 descent.

After Phinney, with 27 starts remaining, the lead changed hands four separate times. It first went to 22-year-old dark horse Dan Eaton of Axeon Cycling, who barely edged out Phinney with a time of 18:49.

Eaton stayed in first and second through several close calls, including a push by another young Axeon rider, Tao Geoghegan Hart. But even he was 8 seconds off the then-leaders — a testament to the unorthodox course, which featured a steep, 1.5-mile climb from the junction of French and Main to the top of Moonstone.

“You try to remember that the finish line isn’t at the top of the climb,” Britton said. “You still have to recover for the last kilometer.”

Gavin Mannion with Jely Belly-Maxxis was first to knock Phinney from second to third position, beating him by a few hundredths of a second. But it didn’t last long. The next rider after Mannion was Britton, who crossed the line with a seemingly unbeatable time of 18:38 — 11 seconds faster than Eaton in first.

Britton held onto his lead through the next nine riders. Dennis, the Tour de France TT record-holder, dominated the Moonstone climb in the final miles of Stage 4 to claim the win and yellow jersey. But he wasn’t quite looking forward to facing the road again.

“I went into the climb today pretty near the limit,” Dennis said. “Today definitely wasn’t as fun, you could say.”

Not like it mattered. Shortly after turning onto Wellington Road, the first section of the climb, Dennis passed Robbie Squire of Hincapie Racing — a surprise podium finisher in Stage 4 — and continued to rapidly cover ground. He conquered the climb and entered the descent far ahead of Britton’s split. When he crossed the line fare ahead of the nearest challenger, he made a strong case for the overall win in Denver on Sunday.

It’s been a long time coming.

“It’s felt like I’ve always had to work for my results,” said Dennis, who has spent most of his professional career supporting BMC heavyweights like two-time Pro Challenge winner Tejay van Garderen. “They’ve never just come to me… There are guys out there who have gone to the top quickly, like Peter Sagan. In my eyes, I still have a long ways to go before I’m the best rider in the world.”

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